The Purple Heart is a military award given to soldiers injured in the line of duty. It has been awarded since the 1930s and is considered one of the U.S. military's greatest honors. But, many soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are wondering why they haven't been awarded Purple Hearts they feel they deserve.
Maj. Michelle Dyarman was involved in a roadside bomb blast in 2005, and she has brain damage as a result. Her injury wasn't properly diagnosed until she left the Army, and now she struggles to get the right medical care for TBI on her own. She also feel she is owed a Purple Heart for sustaining an injury in the line of duty, but so far, she hasn't been able to get one.
Officials at the Pentagon insist they are working to get Purple Hearts to everyone who deserves them, including soldiers with TBI. Internal documents state that head injuries such as concussions make soldiers eligible for a Purple Heart, but such internal injuries are often difficult to document and prove.
"We have got to change the culture of the Army, we have got to change the culture of society, to get people the help they need. But it is a long process. Just because you don't see blood, just because you don't see a bullet hole, just because you don't see a missing appendage doesn't mean an individual hasn't been injured." - Gen. Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army
"It feels like nobody cares, like I was left behind. And one of the things you always learn from the very beginning is, never leave a soldier behind. I was left behind." - Maj. Michelle Dyerman, U.S. Army
"I would get told that, well, I got to have this form. So I would get this form, start over. The Army wants to ask you, well, how long were you knocked out for? How the hell do I know?" - Sgt. Nathan Scheller (Ret.), U.S. Army
1. What wars is the U.S. currently involved in?
2. What is a Purple Heart?
3. What kinds of injuries are common among soldiers returning from the U.S.'s current wars?
1. Why do you think it is so difficult for soldiers with TBIs to get their Purple Hearts, compared to soldiers with more visible injuries?
2. Do you have family members or friends who have served in the military? Were any of them awarded medals? Why do you think those medals would be important to them?
3. Why might it be especially difficult for someone with TBI to fill out the paperwork needed to get a Purple Heart? What challenges might they face in trying to prove they were injured?
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